Ahead of the First ERA Senate Vote in 40 Years, a Nationwide Petition Launches

A new petition asks signatories to help show Congress the overwhelming support by the public of the Equal Rights Amendment. (Sign4ERA.org)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) just announced the first vote on the Equal Rights Amendment in the Senate in 40 years.

“The founding document has never been interpreted to guarantee that the rights of women and the rights of men as a class are simply equal,” said Schumer on Monday at a press conference at Hunter College in New York City. “That’s why I am calling for a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment.” The senator said the vote will happen “this week,” with floor debate on Wednesday and a vote on Thursday.

The ERA has had bipartisan support since its inception, and today the amendment still enjoys wide support among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. But the amendment faces an uphill climb in the Senate, where it has the public support of just two Republicans: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). (Senate Rule XXII requires senators to invoke what is called cloture to end debate and move to a vote. To do that currently requires a 60-vote majority. If the cloture motion is unsuccessful, the resolution is killed by the filibuster. The resolution can be brought back to the Senate floor for a full vote if the majority leader votes with the prevailing side, then moves for a reconsideration of the exact same resolution.)

Schumer alluded to the challenges of ERA passage: “As you know, things don’t come easy in Washington.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at Hunter College on Monday, April 24, announces a Senate vote on the ERA.

Still, ERA advocates see a vote on the resolution a worthwhile endeavor, since it will force senators to go on the record.

“I want to see the list of everybody who is opposed to equality,” said former Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) at the Monday press conference, who today serves as the Eleanor Roosevelt distinguished leader in residence at Hunter College.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) left, Avery Hines-Muddy, 9, and actor Alyssa Milano at a news conference on the need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on June 6, 2018. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

“Nothing in life is more important,” said Gloria Steinem, co-founder of Ms. “It is terribly important and terribly shameful that we are the one democracy in the world that doesn’t ensure equal rights for women.”

To build momentum ahead of the congressional vote, ERA advocates at the conference announced a nationwide petition for the public to pledge their support of the ERA.

“We intend to make this the biggest, most massive petition drive in the United States,” said Ellie Smeal, publisher of Ms. and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “The ERA has been ratified.”

Today’s ERA push is a multigenerational movement, and 90 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are in favor of the ERA. “I’m so heartened to see young people here,” observed Steineim on Monday, “because you are the ones who will activate opinion and voters to really make the change happen. You are the difference that we need.”

One youth ERA advocate in attendance was Lyle Reed, a junior at Hunter College, who said they spoke in support of the amendment on behalf of “the survivors of sexual assault who have been failed by the weak Title IX protections in their school. The queer youth whose identities are being targeted by ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws and restrictions. People who have been denied their right to abortion and other reproductive healthcare. People who have been denied pay parity, and youth of color, who are disproportionately impacted by gender inequality.” 

“If we want to see ourselves in the Constitution, we have to put ourselves there,” said Zakiya Thomas, president of the ERA Coalition, “and that’s what the ERA would do.”

Add your name to the petition here.

Watch the full press conference, “Speak Up For The Equal Rights Amendment,” featuring Chuck Schumer, Carolyn Maloney, Ellie Smeal and more:

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U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.